All Candidate Q&A on Salt Spring at GISS on May 2, 2013
Video by Scott Simmons.
Video by Scott Simmons.
…Update the Salt Spring fire department has lost two referendums on building this massively over designed fire hall. Once in 2007 and once in 2013. The island taxpayer have voted twice and yet the fire board continues down this path to what again another referendum? Maybe it’s wishful thinking of third time lucky. Obviously the taxpayers of Salt Spring do not think the fire department needs a 18,000 sq ft fire hall, plus the other two halls we have to fight the 3 or 4 fires we get per year. The fire budget has gone from approx 800k – 2.5 mil over a decade. Whats let to this massive increase? Full time payed unionized firefighters. How much have they saved up to offset the new fire hall? Zero. It’s not as if anyone on Salt Spring is against firefighters but we all have to live within our means including the fire board. The fire board has to come to the conclusion there is only so much good will and it’s linked to the ability of the property owners to pay at a certain point there will not be any good will towards the fire board….
Does Salt Spring really need to spend $6,000,000 on a fire hall?
First, I must say I applaud all the Salt Spring Island volunteer firefighters (paid on call per call) and the volunteer board members. In my humble opinion, the island owes the volunteers a debt of gratitude. They are going above and beyond the call of duty to community, so my hat is off to them.
What is a fire hall? According to wikipedia A fire station (also called a fire house, fire hall, or firemen’s hall) is a structure or other area set aside for storage of firefighting apparatus such as fire engines and related vehicles, personal protective equipment, fire hoses and other specialized equipment. It may also have dormitory living facilities and work areas for the use of fire fighters.
Basically, a fire hall is used for storage of equipment and as work area for firefighters. We have a training ground in the south end.
Does Salt Spring have the $6,000,000 saved up to spend on the fire hall? No. We (the collective we, the property owners of Salt Spring) are going to have to borrow the money. From where would we borrow the money? The fire board would probably have to go to the Municipal Finance Authority of BC (MFABC) and borrow the money via a bond. Tax payers (via property tax) and eventually renters (via increased rental prices to cover the cost of increased taxes) would be on the hook for the loan for 30 years!
From MFABC web site:
“A new issue will generally be for a term of 10 years which means the lending rate will be set from the date of funding for a period of 10 years. Members have the option to borrow for periods ranging from of 5 to 30 years therefore any terms that exceed the 10 year period will need to have their lending rate reset starting in year 11. Typically the rate will be reset for the next 5 years covering the start of year 11 to the end of year 15, and this “5 year reset process” will continue as required (i.e. until loan obligations mature). Interest payments will be required semi-annually; with the first interest payment being 6 months after proceeds are received. Interest costs over the life of the loan are based on the original amount borrowed.”
So, the fire board will borrow up to $6,000,000 and hope bond rates are not significantly higher in 10 years. As anyone with a mortgage can tell you, in the first period of a mortgage one pays off little of the principal. With the current MFABC rate of 3.09%, after the first 10-year term, the island would still owe approximately $4,573,000. We will pay out approx $1,636,000 in interest. Not including fees.
If the rates go up to 5% in 2023 and we refinance for 5 years on a 20-year term, we will still owe approximately $3,800,000. We will have paid out approximately $1,042,000 in more interest (plus the 1.6 already paid), plus fees. For those that do not follow bond rates, I can tell you the long-term rate trend is up. The massive borrowing by all levels of government is flooding the market with bonds. Most analysts are predicting that bond rates will continue to go up.
This debt servicing goes on and on for 30 years. The Salt Spring fire board does not have the $6,000,000 and would be counting on the world wide banking system/governments to keep interest rates low for the next 25 years. The new proposed fire hall could cost us over $10,000,000 (about a $1,000 each). Now that is one expensive storage building and work area.
There is another option for the fire hall? A simple steel building.
Maybe I’m just a simple person, but I like the fire hall shown above. There has to be something said for simple, efficient, utilitarian design. After all, it’s a fire hall for storage and work areas, not a public library. Photo from the Nucor web site.
Instead of the architecturally designed fire hall that has been proposed, we could build a simple slab on grade, steel building, which could be used for storing the trucks and enclosing an office space. After all, a fire hall doesn’t go out to the fires and rescue people. That is up to firefighters and their equipment.
The new 7,800 sq. ft. Salt Spring tennis building, built by Mr. Norm Elliott’s company, Permasteel Group, was built for less than $700,000. Here is an approximate breakdown of the cost of the tennis building:
Based on my discussion about steel buildings with Fire Trustee, Mr Richard Hannah and this letter to the Salt Spring Island – Letter to the Board from Permasteel, it is evident that there are some misconceptions about steel buildings. I really wonder if the fire board did enough research on the option of utilizing steel buildings. Nucor, the type of building built by Permasteel, actually builds purpose made fire halls. Here is a the link to their fire hall info. Some of the structures look nicer than the one I featured. I wrote Permasteel an email asking for information and they sent me some nice brochures about steel buildings. They are available for viewing at any time.
Mr Elliott’s company Permasteel group could probably build a steel (85%-90% recycled steel)building for the fire hall for approximately $1.5M-$2M. That is less than the cost of the interest we are going to pay on the proposed new fire hall. You can listen to Mr. Elliott’s statement in the podcast below (at the approx. 4 minute mark)
I’m curious to see if the fire board will get a quote from Permasteel for a new steel building and let the taxpayers decide what is best for the island. After all, it is our money that is going to be spent on this new building.
I cannot understand why the Salt Spring Island fire board has not presented the taxpayers with options for the new fire hall. I do not know why these options are not put to a general referendum question such as:
Do you want the Salt Spring fire board to borrow (on your behalf) and build?
If you pick A I hope you are prepared to pay your portion of the $10,000,000. I wonder will the fire budget go up by approx $300k per year (approx financing cost) or will the fire board cut the $300k out of the existing budget?
Here is a startling quote from the fire department’s website http://www.firehallinfo.com/hot-topics/ “Another concern with a Referendum is the fact that an apathetic populace will allow a motivated group to dominate the results.” To have a government agency call the islanders (taxpayers) apathetic is, in my opinion, over the top. This blog post is my personal response to being called apathetic.
Please feel free to comment below.
PS; Again I do think the volunteer fire fighters of Salt Spring are fantastic and should be supported in every way with state of the art fire fighting equipment ie trucks and gear not fire halls we can not afford.
Disclaimer I do not work, have never been paid by and would not accept any payment from Permasteel and or Nucor and do not represent them in any way. I simply want to explore all options regarding any new Salt Spring fire hall.
If you’re planning to live on Salt Spring year-round, one of the most important things to consider when buying a property is SUNLIGHT. Do the neighbor’s trees or a mountain block the sun during the winter months? According to Salt Spring real estate mythology, “If they buy in August, they will list in November and sell in December.” Unfortunately, this myth is sad, but true. The long dark nights of November can make a newcomer mad, so don’t fall into this trap.
All homes on Salt Spring are priced according to size, location, waterfront, water access, and square footage. But, beyond all other criteria, SUNLIGHT is of the utmost importance. Whether you purchase a stunning waterfront McMansion or a little starter home, sunlight and/or the lack of it, can make any home either livable or uninhabitable part of the year. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real problem on Salt Spring. To counter SAD it is imperative that the home you buy is basking in year-round sunlight.
Between May and July, when the sun is higher than 60 degrees on the horizon, almost all Salt Spring homes are sunny. But, in December, when the sun is not over 20 degrees, it might be a different story. I’m always amazed at homes that are built on the south lot line of a property. Homes should be built on the north end of the lot, leaving the trees on the south end of the lot under the control of the homeowner. This seems so logical, but unfortunately, many homes were not built with this basic logic in mind. Salt Spring is blessed and/or cursed with trees. Trees located to the north of a house can provide a nice windbreak and make a home feel warm and cozy. However, if trees are south of the house, the home can resemble a dark cave with sunlight for just a few months of the year. If those same trees are on the neighbor’s property, there is little you can do to increase the sunlight in the home.
Part of the problem on Salt Spring is homes are generally built to take advantage of the views, not the sun. But, armed with this Sun Chart (or smart phone app) and a compass, you can find out if any home will have year-round sun. Simply figure out where south is and hold up the Sun Chart. If the trees, mountain, hill, buildings, etc. are below the 20 degree mark, the home will get year-round sun.
Sunny homes are warmer, have a better feel and are happier homes. The sun gives us life. When one is living close to the 49th parallel on the west coast, where clouds can block the sun, it is imperative to have the maximum amount of light, especially during the shortest days of the winter. A simple Sun Chart or Sun Chart app can make the difference of enjoying Salt Spring year-round or listing your home for sale in November.
Download Sun Path Chart pdf here. Sun path chart pdf
“Sun Path Chart” is reprinted from BC Hydro book Solar Systems in BC as per their reproduction agreement.
BC Home Sales Remain Subdued but Stable
Vancouver, BC – February 18, 2013. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) reports that a total of 3,410 residential sales were recorded by the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®) in BC during January, up 1.8 per cent from December on a seasonally adjusted (SA) basis, but down 13.6 per cent compared to January 2012. Similarly, total sales volume increased 3.8 per cent SA, but declined 16 per cent from the same month last year. The average MLS® residential price in the province was $514,134, up 3.2 percent from December, however, down 2.7 per cent from a year ago.
“Despite a modest uptick in consumer demand last month, home sales have remained relatively stable at a noticeably lower level since last August,” said Cameron Muir, BCREA Chief Economist. “Continuing low mortgage interest rates combined with an easing back of home prices in some areas is expected to trend home sales higher during the spring and summer months.”
“The ratio of home sales to new listings is indicative of a balanced market at 42 per cent,” added Muir. “However, there remains a backlog of existing home listings to either sell or be pulled off the market before supply and demand can be considered in check.”
Dramatic swings in average price statistics caused by a surge and subsequent pullback in luxury home sales appear to be near an end. The year-over-year change in average prices now more closely reflects the home price indices in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
Updated Feb 13, 2012
CFSI has been sold to a Surrey BC Company. Satnam Media Group (BC) Ltd. (Satnam BC).
Attached is a letter that came from the CRTC regarding the sale. CRTC CFSI Letter
Some of the programmers meet with Mr Sukhdev S. Dhillon owner of Satnam Media group on Feb 11, 2013 at the Harbour House hotel on Salt Spring. The meeting went well. Mr Dhillon said he hopes to build the station and retain the community feel of the station.
About 30 programmers meet up on Salt Spring on the night of Feb 12, 2013. It seemed to be unanimous that we are all looking forward to working with Mr. Dhillon. It seems as if our goals are the same; building up CFSI and making it a fantastic local Salt Spring community station. It was a consensus that the programmers will be warmly welcoming Mr. Dhillon to the island. There will be an official welcome letter going to Mr Dhillon. I personally want to congratulate him on his purchase of CFSI.
Here is another link with more info about the sale.
Link to the Driftwood article about the sale.
Article in the Times Colonist newspaper about the sale of CFSI Saltspring radio station..
Art Beat Radio Show. Please feel free to comment below.
Found this on line from the Globe and Mail It will give readers a historic snap shot of CFSI fm.
Saltspring hippies put good vibrations on air
Eclectic mix of groups vie for slots as island residents win
approval from federal regulator for radio station
Special to The Globe and Mail
November 9, 2007
VICTORIA — Saltspring Island’s eclectic mix of 11,000 residents should be tuning into the island’s first radio station by May, and already they’re clamouring for air time.
“I have a woman who wants to do a Scrabble show. She wants us to broadcast the game while they’re playing,” said Richard Moses, who with fellow Saltspring resident Gary Brooks got federal approval for 107.9 CFSI-FM. “We’re going to have everything under the sun.”
It’s no wonder.
Saltspring is a fabled place where middle-aged men and women with flowing hair still wear tie-dye shirts and hitchhike. Magic mushrooms and dozens of heritage apple types are harvested. Soap-makers and organic cheese-makers sell their wares at the funky and famed Saturday market. And pot growing isn’t panned.
If a Saltspringer wants to air marijuana gardening tips, that will be fine with 74-year-old Mr. Moses.
“We want the station to grow out of the island,” he said, tongue firmly in cheek, about a place still painted as a hippie haven. “It [hippie] is a bit of a dated term, but the spirit is there.”
As station program director, Mr. Moses wants organic farmers and alternative health practitioners to pile into the as-yet non-existent studio to broadcast informational shows.
Many of Saltspring’s special-interest groups, numbering some 150, have indicated they want air time, said Mr. Moses, who spent two decades working at community radio stations in Toronto and Edmonton after moving from New York in 1971.
Listeners can also expect lots of salty dialogue during open-line shows.
Folk singer Valdy told Mr. Brooks that Saltspring is an argument surrounded by water. “There’s a lot of hot-button issues we can talk about,” said Mr. Brooks, a semi-retired entrepreneur who came to Saltspring from New Mexico five years ago and couldn’t believe the island didn’t have a radio station.
Initially, the station will air about 16 hours a day and eventually work up to 20 hours, from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., Mr. Moses said.
Toned-down, spoken-word ads read by retired radio announcers or actors will replace hyped-up jingles. “Saltspring has an amazing amount of people who worked in radio. It’s a ridiculously high percentage,” Mr. Brooks said.
As promised in the application to the CRTC, CFSI won’t play Top 40 music. Classical, jazz, blues and folk will be the core music programming. The station also wants to feature new artists and has promised to eventually fill 50 per cent of the music slot with Canadian content. “It seems like every second person here has musical talent,” Mr. Brooks said.
Mr. Moses has amassed several dozen CDs made by Saltspring musicians.
Randy Bachman, former rock star and now CBC radio host, might be persuaded to move his show closer to home. Artist Robert Bateman would make an eloquent radio voice.
CFSI will also spread the word when such emergencies as fires occur, a service that has been dangerously lacking on the 185-square-kilometre island.
High-school students will be invited to produce shows about issues they find relevant, said Mr. Brooks, 56, who has two children, 11 and 14.
Born and raised in New York, Mr. Brooks was known as the Chile Guy when he ran a successful chili pepper business out of New Mexico and Mexico. In financing the station, he put up at least $100,000 to get it off the ground and on the air, and at least another $100,000 to run it for one year.
The partners hope that advertising revenue and volunteer staff will help CFSI break even. They conservatively predict revenues of $130,000 in the first year. “This is a labour of love,” Mr. Brooks said.
But the new radio station has already brought some static.
About 70 people signed a letter saying they don’t want CFSI’s proposed 33-metre tower and 1,000-watt transmitter on Mount Belcher, said Rick Laing, a building contractor who has lived on the mountain for 25 years.
While he’s not against the radio station, there are concerns that the tower is unsightly, will lower property values in the rural neighbourhood and may cause health problems.
“It’s not scientifically proven, but it [a tower] can be dangerous to birds’ health and disorienting to animals,” Mr. Laing said.
The municipal government must give its blessing to the tower site, Mr. Brooks said, and he expects it will, since Industry Canada has already approved it. There are at least two other potential tower sites in the same geographical position that could be used, Mr. Moses added.
As it happened, after residents spent about 15 years trying to bring a station to Saltspring, a competing bid was made in January, two months before CFSI’s.
But the CRTC considered the first bid’s business plan to be flawed, while CFSI had a “viable” plan and the “financial capacity to fulfill its plan.”
In October, the CRTC awarded a seven-year licence to CFSI.
“It’s going to be full-tilt boogie,” Mr. Brooks predicted.
Update April 2013 from Radio West
CFSI 102.1/107.9 is now branding itself as “Green FM 102.1 + 107.9″ and has a new website and logo to match:
GREEN FM WEBSITE
Now under ownership by Satnam Media, ‘Green FM’ still operates as Salt Spring’s community station with a continued musical emphasis on Category #3 music – local Salt Spring artists, world-beat, folk, jazz, blues & classical. Many shows by volunteer programmers are now moving to evening and weekend slots, but virtually all shows remain on air (including my own). New owner Sukhev “Dave” Dhillon has kept Dave Gordon on as station manager, Bobby Magee now handles sales, & Rob Pingle remains as Music Director and webmaster. The mood at the station amongst management, programmers and advertisers is an upbeat, positive one as the station rebuilds from all the damage done by the previous owner and moves forward daring to go where few radio stations dare tread!!
(thanks to Sky Valley Radio for the above)
Hi Scott. You were asking if I could write a piece for your blog about our experience of moving across Canada with shipping (sea) containers by train – so here goes. This was a long move – 6000 km from New Brunswick to Salt Spring Island. We wanted a moving option that was going to be as environmentally friendly as possible, and not break the bank. I recall you mentioned that you have had clients who got rid of almost everything and moved via Canada Post! Really, we did think about that option but didn’t want to write off 28 years worth of books and other hobby collections, furniture with sentimental value, and the equipment and inventory of a couple of home businesses in addition to the personal items. We started looking into options:
– Moving company – quoted cost was prohibitively expensive even considering I was doing the packing myself; based on CRD aerial view of lot I showed them, moving company said no way they would try to get big truck up the steep and narrow driveway at the new place; would have to unload into smaller trucks at end of driveway and run loads up the driveway with significant (and unpredictable) additional cost. With trucker charging for excess time spent doing this.
– U Haul type truck – as the person on the NB end with the rest of the family already on SSI, I’d be stuck driving their biggest (27 ft) truck across country, solo. And at that, it probably would be too small to fit all the stuff. So what then, truck+trailer? Across the mountains???
– U Boxes – you can rent these plywood boxes from U Haul that you can pick up or have delivered to your house, they then ship them across country to the nearest U Haul (Sidney) and you take them to your new place and unload. They have a big truck that can deliver 4 or 5 at a time but won’t send it to Salt Spring, outside their delivery area (and the truck probably wouldn’t have got up the driveway anyway) so it would have meant renting a trailer from U Haul to move one box at a time (since our car is too small to tow, we’d also need to rent a towing vehicle), which was going to get very expensive very fast in time and ferry costs. Or else rent a big U Haul truck (+trailer?) and offload everything onto it in Sidney for the drive over, then unload a second time at home.
– Checked into other kinds of rental moving ‘pods’ – lots of companies advertise these on the internet, but try finding any that operate east of Ontario! One of the companies could have picked up in NB, but wouldn’t deliver west of Vancouver.
– Intermodal delivery with rented shipping container(s) – Would have been a good option for reasons described below, but in NB the only size available was the 53 ft long container (this varies provincially), and there was no way that was going up the Salt Spring driveway. Another case of unloading and running loads up the driveway with smaller trucks. The other problem is that these rented intermodal containers are brought to your house on a truck chassis 4 feet off the ground, which is fine if you have a loading bay but not so good for household moves – they don’t provide a ramp, you have to come up with something to use – and they expect you to load and unload in a few hours (think it may be 4 hours?) after which you pay something like $75/hr for additional waiting time. Again, that’s fine for an industrial situation where you’d be loading uniform sized items with a front end loader, not so much when you’re trying to place weird sized boxes and furniture. In some cities where it’s convenient for them, they will drop it off for 48 hours of loading or unloading with no additional charge, but obviously that wasn’t going to happen at either end of our trip.
– Intermodal delivery with purchased shipping containers – This is what we eventually decided to do, with 2 20-foot sea containers. We liked the environmental aspects of this option – shipping by rail produces significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than the equivalent trucking (at least a 4 to 8-fold reduction, depending on whose calculations you believe); we like that it’s helping keep the railways in business; it’s a way of recycling shipping containers (only about 1/3 of the containers that are shipped to North America each year actually make the return voyage, which says something alarming about our balance of trade, don’t you think?); we were planning to construct some outbuildings at the new place anyway, and the containers were cheaper and better than anything of equivalent size we would have built.
So, for anyone interested in this option, these are the steps:
– Contacted an intermodal agent (CN wouldn’t deal with us directly because it was a household move) to get a quote. The transportation-only part of our move actually worked out to be more expensive than the ‘full package’ deal from the intermodal agent (renting their container and letting them handle all aspects of the transport) but we couldn’t use their package deal for the reasons described above. If you are planning to use your own containers, you also have to provide photos of the containers and a safety certificate that apparently all containers have, to prove that they are fit to go on the train. We did this before we completed the purchase of the containers, just in case.
– Book the rail trip with the intermodal company. We got a discount because for some reason CN had a sale on Mondays for a limited time – this varies.
– Bought the containers from a storage company in NB. (Google ‘sea containers’ and your location to find a vendor.)
– Had them delivered to our driveway using a flatbed tow truck. They put the containers at ground level for loading.
– Bought locks for the doors. I mail-ordered a single-use locking bar for each container, and also a heavy-duty padlock. (Google ‘security seals for containers’ and/or talk to a locksmith about hardened-steel padlocks)
– Had them picked up by a different company with bigger truck that could handle the extra weight of the loaded containers, and taken to the railyard on our assigned date.
– Shipped to Vancouver via CN. This was supposed to take a week but they came in 2 days early, on a Saturday, which was a pain because CN will store them for 2 days and then starts charging $200 a day for ‘storage’.
– Fortunately we’d already lined up a Salt Spring hauler to pick them up in Vancouver and he was willing to rearrange his Monday on pretty short notice to save us those storage fees. Then we waited a couple of days for the rain to stop and driveway to dry out a bit. It had been decided that the big truck that went to Vancouver wouldn’t be going up the driveway – the containers were winched off onto a smaller tow truck and taken up one at a time. (We thought that step would be more of an adventure than it turned out to be, but in fact it went pretty smoothly.) We’ve been slowly emptying them out…it’s great not to have to rush this job, makes for less chaos in the house. Basically we’ll finish taking out and putting away the things we can easily manage, and then hire some help for a couple of hours to shift the heavier items.
– Once the containers are empty, our very helpful local company will come back in and line them up neatly where we want them. And then we have instant usable space. How can that get any better?
– I don’t have all the invoices in hand yet, so can’t say exactly what this cost. But I can say that even counting the purchase of the containers it was about 2/3 of what I was quoted for a mover-move. If you don’t include that purchase price – which was probably a bit lower than the cost of a very basic prefab wooden shed of comparable square footage, delivered – the cost of the move itself was probably closer to half of a mover-move. I’m not counting the value of my time here.
Scott, this has turned out to be a much longer explanation than I expected but maybe can save someone else some time on figuring all this out. It was a definite learning experience – I learned some fascinating stuff about the transportation system – took time to figure all this out and was a bit stressful at times, but I would do this again in a heartbeat.
All the best, A.
Thanks A great article.
Scott's brokerage is eXp Realty
1321 Blanshard Street, Suite 301
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